Senate to probe ‘Bikoy’ claims this week

Robie de Guzman   •   May 7, 2019   •   1801

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate panel is set to conduct a hearing this week to probe the allegations of Peter Joemel Advincula, who is claiming to be ‘Bikoy’ in the video series entitled “Ang Totoong Narco list,” which linked some members of the Duterte family and their allies to the narcotics trade.

Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chairman Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Tuesday said in a text message the hearing will take place on Friday, May 10 at 9:30 a.m.

He added that the formal invitation to Advincula will be sent out through the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) since it was the last place where he was seen.

“The committee is sending out today a formal invitation letter to Advincula thru the IBP since it was the last known link to him and they may have knowledge of how to relay the invitation to him,” Lacson said.

Advincula on Monday surfaced at the IBP to seek legal assistance to file charges against presidential son Paolo Duterte, former Special Assistant to the President and Senatorial candidate Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, and Lawyer Manases Carpio, the husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

He also cited threats against his life as one of his reasons for surfacing.

READ: Man claiming to be Bikoy asks help from IBP

The senator also wrote on his Twitter account that his panel will be looking into the issue surrounding the “Ang Totoong Narco list” since it has become a political issue.

However, Lacson said Advincula must personally present a sworn statement and evidence to back his claims in order for the hearing to push through.

“Like it or not, Bikoy has become a political, if not an election issue. The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs can schedule a hearing this week on one condition: Bikoy must personally present a sworn statement and his evidence to support his accusations,” he said.

Lacson said the scheduled hearing on Friday will proceed if ‘Bikoy’ accepts their invitation and presents his sworn statement.

“It will push through once Bikoy confirms his attendance with a sworn statement ready. In the meantime, we are doing some background investigation and record check on him,” he said.

READ: NBI to summon man claiming to be ‘Bikoy’

READ: PNP to probe ‘Bikoy’ narco videos

The Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation earlier said a probe has been launched on the people behind the Bikoy’ narco videos and are now validating if Advincula is the same hooded figure in the clips. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Sotto on GCTA hearing: More witnesses will be presented

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 11, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday (September 11) said more witnesses on the controversial good conduct time allowance (GCTA) will be presented at the Senate hearing on Thursday (September 12).

Four to five new witnesses might testify during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing tomorrow.

According to Sotto, these are former inmates and employees of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). Their testimonies will center on the GCTA and “hospital pass for sale” issue.

“I signed seven subpoenas which include subpoena duces tecum, but personalities will be presented tomorrow,” he said.

Meanwhile, the calls and messages from Elvira Sanchez have been retrieved. Sanchez is the common law wife of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

The Senate is also seeking the assistance of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to identify who texted Elvira that her husband will be released.

In a previous hearing, Ms. Sanchez already said she did not know who texted and called her.

“Ang trace nila galing sa loob, (The trace came from the inside). It was a text from an inmate. As a matter of fact hindi lang text (it’s not just a text). Hindi accurate iyong sinabi ni Ms. Sanchez, [may] tawag, (Ms. Sanchez’s statement was not accurate, there was also a call)” according to Sotto.—AAC (with reports from Grace Casin)

Zubiri calls for Alcatraz-like prisons for heinous crime convicts

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 4, 2019

Senator Miguel Zubiri

Senator Miguel Zubiri has filed Senate Bill 1004 to establish a separate prison facility across the region for heinous crime convicts.

Zubiri filed the said bill in the wake of the near release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

He said, “Heinous crime convicts and high-risk prisoners belong to maximum security prisons in isolated and uninhabited islands, far from their victims and society at large.”

Zubiri also lamented that while jails keep society safe and punish criminals by restricting their liberty, Sanchez was living luxuriously and still enjoys privileges as proven by actual videos taken at the New Bilibid Prison.

The senator proposed the establishment of Heinous Crimes Penitentiary (HCP). Based on the proposed Senate bill, inmates from the New Bilibid Prison and other Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) jails should be transferred to HCP facilities a year after its establishment.

“Convicts like Mayor Sanchez belong to the proposed Heinous Crimes Penitentiary to be run by the Bureau of Corrections. I propose that personnel of the Bureau build and operate several HCP facilities in several regions to be identified by the Secretary of Justice,” he said.

The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was a maximum federal facility located on an island in California, United States. It housed the most dangerous criminals in the US. The facility operated from August 11, 1934, until March 21, 1963.—AAC (with reports from Grace Casin)

Sotto expects GCTA law amended before year ends

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed confidence on Wednesday that the proposed amendments to the Republic Act 10592 or the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law will be passed by the Congress before the year ends.

Sotto said the Senate will expedite the discussion on the proposals to amend the law’s certain provisions following complaints from many of the qualified beneficiaries of the GCTA law whose process for early release has been suspended due to the controversy.

“Maraming sumasama ang loob na sila ay qualified, na hindi mapoprocess sila ngayon, sila na yung napapag-iwanan. So, talagang bibilisan namin ito, fast-break ito,” Sotto told reporters.

The Senate president said he will also ask his counterpart in the House of Representatives to do the same.

“I will be coordinating with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, former Senator Alan, nai-fast-break din nila yung kanila, para mabilis yung amendments. I am sure the President will sign it right away,” he said.

“’Yang mga ganyang emergency measures, kailangan ‘yan apurahin kasi kawawa naman yung those languishing in jail na talaga namang qualified lalo na kung hindi heinous crimes,” he added.

Several senators have earlier filed proposals seeking to amend the GCTA law which recently came under scrutiny after news broke out that convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez could be among the 11,000 persons deprived with liberty who are eligible for early release due to good behavior.

The report sparked public uproar which prompted the Senate to hold an inquiry into the application of the law.

During the hearing, the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed amendments including a clear definition of heinous crimes as well as clear classification of whether the law should be reformative, rehabilitative or punitive or retributive.

The Senate adjourned the probe Wednesday to hold a caucus and discuss the proposed amendments to the law.

Sotto, along with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon earlier moved to repeal the law but the Senate president said they realized it would be better to just amend it.

READ: 3 Senators want GCTA law repealed

“There are good amendments that are being proposed, kaya pwedeng amyendahan na namin kaagad yung batas ng mabilisan at linawin,” Sotto said.

One of the amendments they are planning to introduce is that the implementing rules and regulations should be approved by Congress to prevent the law from being abused or misinterpreted.

“Siguruhin doon sa after the repealing clause and all that, ilagay namin na ang IRR ay kailangan with the approval of Congress para hindi nababago yung intention ng batas,” he said.

Sotto added that they might also include this provision in future measures that Senate will approve.

“Itong batas na ito na aamyendahan namin, ilalagay namin yun. Ngayon, pagaralan namin kung paano lalahatin lahat ng mga IRR. Well, of course, this will be prospective,” he said.

The RA 10592 was passed and signed in 2013 during the time of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino. Last June 2019, the SC ruled that the law could be applied retroactively.

“Allow me to reiterate, the law, principally authored and sponsored by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago I think, is very important and very valid at that time that we passed it because the reason for the law according to Miriam was, it would benefit those who are aging, the ailing convicts in the National Bilibid Prison, and it will decongest the NBP,” he said.

“Naka-enumerate naman doon kung alin ang hindi qualified, di ba? Ang heinous crime, nakalagay na hindi qualified. Ang masama at nagpasama nito, nagbigay ng pagkakataon na abusuhin ito, ng ibang tao, ay yung IRR. Yung IRR na ginawa nung dating DOJ at DILG na grupo, or na heads. Yun ang diperensiya,” he added.

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